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  • The synagogue in Vinnytsia under construction.
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First night of Passover in Ukraine

Koen Carlier - 9 April 2020

This morning I drove through the almost empty main street on my way to the Jewish school. I stopped at the big synagogue for a moment and there my thoughts wandered to the Seder evenings of previous years. The synagogue is now under construction. It is being renovated and the city pays for the costs, but the works came to a standstill. For how long? I think for a very long time, because the economic situation in Ukraine will be very bad after the corona crisis.

The country had just begun to recover slowly, six years after the war in Eastern Ukraine began. The war still continues, but is now more controlled with far fewer victims compared to a few years ago. Anyhow, I was thinking about the Seder evenings of previous years. Each time, Rabbi Shaul asked me: “Koen would you like to address the congregation?” I hesitated each time, because it was their celebration.

I used to look around to the people in the overcrowded synagogue as young and old sat together just as the Almighty had commanded, and I said: “There is something I don’t understand, so many hundreds of Jews have made aliyah and yet this synagogue is still overcrowded synagogue”. I saw a few smiles here and there. “Some of your children have left with a study program to Israel. And yes, Mary, a survivor of the Holocaust is finally in Israel. And also Juliya, an orphan girl, left for Israel… When I think of all those families with young children as well as many elderly people, we realize only one thing: the Lord is faithful and He will do what He promised.”

I always ended up with: “Who knows ‘Next year in Jerusalem’ will become reality for you in the coming year.” And then it was always very quiet in the synagogue. Everyone present knew exactly what I meant.

I came back to reality when someone honked at me because I was slightly blocking the road. I continued my way to the Jewish school. Shmuel, the violin teacher, handed over the last eight Pesach food parcels which I was going to deliver. We handed out many parcels during the last week!

This will be the first year, since the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1991, that synagogues all over Ukraine will not commemorate the Seder. Everyone will commemorate it in their Soviet apartment in quarantine. We pray and hope that when the words ‘next year in Jerusalem’ are uttered, it will not be just words, but, as predicted by the prophets, an exodus will start worldwide, including from America!

We may look forward with anticipation to the things the Lord will do.

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